Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury preview and analysis
By Harry Rowland: Wilmslow’s Tyson Fury (27) has earned himself a shot at reigning world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (39), in Düsseldorf’s ESPIRIT arena on October 24th, having beaten Finchley’s Derrick Chisora in a WBO title eliminator last November.
Not many people outside of the Fury camp are tipping the Gypsy Warrior to upset the 7/2 against odds, and put an end to the WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO and The Ring champions’ nine and a half year reign, as the owner of the richest prize in sport.
The Ukrainian born, German based Dr Steal Hammer has now made 18 consecutive defences of his WBO championship he won from Chris Byrd in 2006. A record that is third only to Joe Louis’ 25 and Larry Holmes’ 20 in heavyweight history.
If you include Klitschko’s first reign as WBO champion (2000-2003), he has amassed a grand total of 23 defences during his nearing 19 year professional career. He also shares the record for competing in the most world heavyweight title fights with Louis. This contest will put him ahead at 28. In contrast the unbeaten Fury has had only 24 fights (18 early) in just less than seven years as a professional.
Of course there is more than one way to quantify experience, such as number of rounds boxed, quality of opposition and amateur pedigree too, but Klitschko is favorable on all accounts. Fury has boxed 134 rounds as a professional; less than two fifths of Klitchko’s 346.
Fury’s biggest wins have come against aging former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham, Kevin Johnson and Derrick Chisora (twice), the latter two now considered journeymen. Klitschko has faced the best available opposition the division has had to offer for over one and a half decades.
Fury’s inexperience at the very highest level is no fault of his own, David Haye pulled out of two scheduled bouts in 2012 due to injury, leaving Fury inactive for nearly ten months. This put Fury’s career on hold at an important learning stage, when a fighter should be at his busiest.
Klitschko’s amateur record reads 134-36 and was topped off with a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Fury opted to turn over to the pro’s after at 31-4 with almost a fifth less Fights. He won the senior Amateur Boxing Association title, Great Britain’s version of America’s Golden Gloves.
It is also easy to see why Fury is such a huge underdog, having been sent to the canvas by smaller heavyweights Nevin Pajic and Cunningham in previous contests. Both landed the same looping overhand right, directly on Fury’s exposed chin as he recklessly moved forwards. Unfortunately for Fury Klitschko’s most devastating punch and equalizer in almost all of his 54 knockouts in 64 wins, is the straight right.
As the old saying goes, it’s not how you go down, its how you get up and fight back from adversity. Fury has definitely ticked that box, getting off the floor to stop both Pajic and Cunningham inside the distance in exciting fights.
Fury is going to be bringing the confidence of an unbeaten fighter, who feels he cannot be denied: ‘You have a chin like a piece of glass, what am I to be afraid of? Your three punch combinations? Your one-two and a hook? That is your full array of punches. I’ve never been so confident of a fight before as I am of knocking this idiot out’
The 12 year younger Fury’s belligerent humor can rub a lot of people up the wrong way, nevertheless, he feels the timing is right for a changing of the guard: ‘I am the new blood in the division, you are an old man. History says all old champions move over for the new ones. All the great champions of the past at 39 years old are over the hill, or on the decline rapidly’.
The majority of heavyweight greats such as Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier were all either retired or unable to compete at the highest level by the time they were Klitschko’s age. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, most notably George Foreman who holds the record as the oldest man to win the heavyweight crown at 46. Evander Holyfield also held a version of the title until he was 39, and arguably should hold the record as the oldest man to win a belt after his controversial losing effort against Nikolai Valuev at age 47. But most tellingly, brother Vitali Klitschko dominated as WBC champion until his retirement at 41, and looked like he could have continued well into his forties, if he had chosen to.
Despite various industry rumblings, Klitschko hasn’t actually shown any sign of wear and tear up to this point, seemingly putting in a career best performance against IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev, two fights ago, sending him to the canvas three times en route to a fifth round stoppage. This was Klitschko’s most exiting fight since coming through three knockdowns, when outpointing Samuel Peter back in 2005. The aftermath brought talk of a return to his exciting style from days of yore, when he was more aggressive and consequently more vulnerable.
The adoption of a safety first style slowly lost the attention of the American fans over the years, this culminated in 2008 after an uninspiring points win in a unification bout with IBF champion Sultan Ibragimov at Maddison Square Garden. Resulting in moving his base from the US back to Germany, he wasn’t to fight again in America until he faced Philadelphian Bryant Jennings this year.
The Jennings fight was the first of a three fight deal with American cable giant HBO. It is assumed the network was hoping to gain some momentum for a showdown with WBC titlist and potential future American star Deontay Wilder. But hosting the Fury fight in Germany is an indication of how that panned out.
Jennings is a thinking fighter who brought a considered approach, conserving energy by attacking in spurts and never neglecting defence, much like the tactics used by WBA belt holder Haye, when facing Klitschko in their 2011 unification bout. This doesn’t make for a good spectacle against a champion who is happy to box at range and wait for his opponent to make mistakes, while clinching and mauling when up close.
Klitschko has taken the late great trainer Emanuel Steward’s cautious teachings that he passed onto Lennox Lewis before him to a new level. It is accepted that using size to your advantage, wrestling and leaning on the inside to sap your opponent’s strength and stamina is all part of the game, but there is a point where it can become an infringement of the rules of the sport. His worst offence coming when facing WBA mandatory Alexander Povetkin in 2013, Klitschko’s tactics had to be seen to be believed, with the referee finally taking a point in round eleven.
Fury doesn’t hesitate to speak out on this subject, considering this fight his ‘personal mission to rid boxing of a boring person. Your jab and grab style, surely all of Europe want to see you get beaten. I want to rid you of the heavyweight division. You have about as much charisma as my underpants, zero, none.’
Fury also criticises his foe on his opponent choice ‘you are used to fighting guys six one, six two, six three. A man who’s had twenty five title defences against bums, selected by good management. Povetkin: some small man with a one two – one dimensional. David Haye: who goes in there and does nothing. Jennings; small guy, his key element is his movement and moving away from a big fighter like him is a no go area, he had no punch, he was going in there to get paid. Kubrat Pulev: some big stiff stupid European fighter, stood in front of a man who can knock a wall down. Jameel McCline: a mover but didn’t really have any heart, was knackered after six rounds. Tony Thompson; bit of a lazy fighter, an old guy who was slow and he give him all the problems in the world.’
Although some of these comments are surprisingly accurate, Klitschko can’t be faulted, taking on all comers in an active reign averaging 2.1 fights per year. Compare this to pound for pound number one Floyd Mayweather’s 1.5 yearly average over the same period, it’s over a quarter less. Klitschko has not handpicked his foes in the way Mayweather has, as he has been obsessed with keeping hold of every belt he occupies.
Former lineal heavyweight champions have not been so interested in ownership of all the belts. In 2000 Lewis decided to relinquish the IBF belt to fight Michael Grant rather than face mandatory Chris Byrd, due to greater appeal both aesthetically and financially. In 1993 Riddick Bowe dropped his WBC belt into a ‘dumpster’ rather than face mandatory Lewis himself.
There are numerous examples of champions disregarding alphabet belts, but Klitschko maintains ultimate domination by refusing to abstain from the rules of all governing bodies. This is refreshing in a sport where confusion over who is the real champion at a particular weight is rife, legitimacy can be lost in the fray of having at least four recognised belts in existence.
Klitschko has earned the right to be supremely confident, to the extent that he views himself as a psychiatrist for disrespectful fighters: ‘I’m like a therapist for them, so when I promised David Haye before the fight; I’m gonna make him a better person and I’m so happy David became a better person after the fight, and I believe that Tyson Fury is going through the same schedule, he’s doing and saying things that he’ll regret later on. When little screws get loose, you need to tighten up a bit, as a therapist and I think we’re gonna have success with that. I wish you a fast healing’
This kind of rhetoric may be spoken in jest, but it confirms he believes in only one outcome. And this statement is accurate in that there aren’t many experiences more humbling than defeat, especially for an unbeaten fighter.
Former heavyweight champions and British boxing luminaries Lewis and Haye are sceptical of Fury’s chances: ‘I don’t see where Tyson Fury has boxed anybody of Wladimir’s calibre to be able to get in the ring and do well. You need to at least have one fight against somebody that tall and that good’ – Lennox Lewis
‘He ain’t beating him, I’m not even thinking about that. If you look at Fury’s record he hasn’t fought anyone big, it’s a bit of a shame the first time he has the chance to fight a big guy [it is] for the world title, it will be a new experience for him’ – David Haye
It is telling that Fury’s compatriots feel that the inexperience in dealing with a sizeable adversary is bestowed on the challenger rather than champion, as Fury’s feels any advantages where size is concerned are in his favour.
At a towering six foot nine, Fury is three inches taller in height, has an eighteen and a half pound weight advantage based on their most recent appearances (this is most likely to reduce to six and a half pounds assuming Fury weighs in at his optimal weight of around 248 pounds), he has over a twelve year age advantage and 3 inch reach advantage at 86 inches.
Fury’s height should prevent his man from leaning on him in the clinches, which has been the undoing of most opponents’ game plans. He can also utilise his reach advantage as he is a very effective long range fighter. This was on display in his boxing clinic against the awkward Kevin Johnson in 2012, winning all but one round on all scorecards.
Klitschko’s tallest opponent to date came in 2013. Marius Wach was 4cm taller at nearly six foot eight. Towards the end of the fight, realising he wasn’t going to put his man away, Klitschko chose to get onto his toes and employ a dancing style to outpoint the slower Wach, showing that he can adapt if need be.
He can be aggressive and has no problem exchanging on the inside, which could cause Klitschko problems if he is unable to tie him up. Possibly his most dangerous asset is his unpredictability, an example of this is his fifth round stoppage of Prizefighter winner Martin Rogan in 2012, where he unexpectedly decided to box the entire fight as a southpaw.
Fury also has a deadly body shot in his arsenal. Klitschko from memory may not have thrown one in his entire career, not that that ever hampered Muhammad Ali’s chances at glory. But make no mistake; Fury has an exceptionally good chance of winning this fight. If Klitschko doesn’t catch him early, he is in for a long hard night.
Klitschko is very predictable, opting to throw straight shots and usually only resorting to hooks and uppercuts if he feels his man is all but finished. He is a reactionary fighter, his opponent dictates his fighting style, if they are cautious, he will be more cautious, if they are aggressive, he will be more so. Looking at the aforementioned Pulev fight, the excitement was only borne by the Bulgarian’s recklessness, forcing Klitschko to fight fire with fire. All three knockdowns were as a result of lead left hooks.
Klitschko is not unused to tasting the canvass himself, suffering a career total of nine knockdowns and three knockout losses. But he cannot be accused of lack of heart either, having forced himself off the canvass to attempt to fight on, on each occasion.
If Fury can get through with some solid shots there is every chance the champion will revert to form, flailing like a novice and leaving himself open to more punishment as he did against Corrie Sanders back in 2003. But it must be noted that Klitschko has never been out boxed. Sanders jumped on him before the fight got started, ending proceedings in the second round. And he was way ahead on the scorecards when taken out by Ross Purity and Lamont Brewster. All of his points wins have come via convincing unanimous decision, there are not many fighters who can say that.
Fury has enough power to trouble anyone, boasting ten stoppages within the first four rounds, and trainer/uncle Peter Fury isn’t known to match his fighters lightly. With over ten years passing, Klitschko’s downfalls seem like a lifetime ago, but in a sport considered more psychological warfare than physical, they will always be lying just beneath the surface.
Wilders WBC belt is the only one missing from the champion’s collection, since being relinquished by Vitali in 2013. Wilder is a six foot seven powerhouse, unbeaten in 34, with 33 knockouts. Assuming Wilder gets past mandatory challenger Povetkin in January, it is expected that he will meet the victor of this match to unify all belts. Wilders wiry frame would present a similar challenge to Fury, carrying more power but seemingly less speed of foot and boxing skill.
Fury cannot be expected to fight the way he has in any of his previous contests, despite convincing himself of an easy night, he realises the size of the task at hand, even when he is bad mouthing him his respect for the champion is evident: ‘Kubrat Pulev: stood in front of a man who can knock a wall down’.
If nothing else, Fury is written off because it is only common sense to ask oneself: if he can be put on the seat of his pants by lesser men, what is Wladimir Klitchko going to do to him? Much as the odds makers did when nineteen fight relative novice Cassius Clay stepped up to face champion Sonny Liston for the title in 1964, having previously been knocked down by far less formidable foes Sonny Banks and Henry Cooper, he was a 7/1 outsider.
As much as Fury’s got going for him, the champion has more. One has to side with Wladimir Klitschko in this contest , being the consummate professional that he is, training assiduously hard for each and every opponent. Despite his thirty nine years, it is unlikely he will be vulnerable to age catching up with him at this stage. But if he has slowed or loses concentration for one moment, the challenger has all the necessary credentials to capitalise. Tyson Fury is still an unknown quantity, and this makes him extremely dangerous.